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School district works to keep up with Clay County's growing population

Superintendent says boundaries drawn in 1992 need to be updated

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The Clay County school district is working to handle the county's booming population rate.

With thousands of people moving in over the coming years, schools will have to accommodate those extra children. Some parents say schools are already too crowded. 

"There's too many kids in one class and teachers can't control them," parent Amanda Cummings said. 

One example where this is an issue right now is in Fleming Island. On Tuesday night, the school district held a public meeting with parents at R.M. Paterson Elementary School in Fleming Island about potential rezoning of the school, which is at 98% capacity with 1,100 students. 

Superintendent Addison Davis told News4Jax that Fleming Island Elementary is the best option to move students to, as that school is only at 77% capacity.

Other schools in the area are more crowded. Thunderbolt Elementary in Fleming Island is about 85% full, while Charles Bennett Elementary in Green Cove Springs is at 87%.  Davis added the district boundaries that schools use were adopted in 1992 and need to be updated.

One parent reached out to News4Jax on Facebook, writing, "Paterson is the only school most of our kiddos know, and it’s a shame that we could be moved from Paterson, when new communities (come) in. DIFFERENT zip code will be able to stay."

The plan is only in the preliminary stages and won't be revisited until January. Students going into sixth grade would be exempt from the plan as it stands now.

VIEW: Paterson Elementary rezoning presentation

The entire county will deal with similar struggles in coming years as Clay County prepares to build multiple new schools.

One area that will see two to three new schools constructed is in Governor's Park, which is in southwest Green Cove Springs. It's a largely undeveloped area that is being rezoned for thousands of homes and apartments.  

This week, the County Board of Commissioners approved what's called a DRI (Development of regional impact). That's one of many planning processes that is being voted on by the county to start construction.

In addition to Governor's Park, there is a new school planned for the Tynes area of Middleburg in the next three to four years. And another school will also likely be built off County Road 315 for residents in Lake Asbury.

About the Author:

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.